So, you’ve probably visited this blog because you either are interested in my travels, or want to know the tips and tricks of how to travel for next to nothing.
There’s a lot of different (and great) sources all across the web, but I wanted to try to provide a “one stop shop” for beginners, and how to begging enjoying this hobby. The investment you put in to learning how to travel at a greatly reduced cost will reap more benefits than you can imagine!
First off, figure out what kind of traveling you like to do. Do you like to travel in luxury hotels, sit in the big cushy seat in the front of the plane, and travel to major European landmarks? Or, do you like to travel across the US in a 4 day train trip, stay in road-side hotels, and eat at the latest dives along the way? Once you figure out what kind of traveling you like to do, it’s time to break things up.
Step 1: Earn elite status. Depending on how you want to get there and where you are going to stay, become loyal to a major airline and hotel chain. If you’re predominately visit France, maybe Air France’s Flying Blue program is for you. If you live in Phoenix, maybe US Airways Dividend Rewards is for you. Figure out what it takes to attain elite status on a major airline, and also attain elite status with a major hotel brand. Earning elite status with airlines is hard to do unless you’re flying butt in seat. However, there are many lucrative credit card offers that provide elite qualifying miles. If you fly often enough, and stick to one airline and alliance, you’ll rack up the elite miles quickly. Earning hotel elite status is much easier, and can often be attained by simply holding a co-branded credit card. For example, having the American Express Platinum card automatically gives you SPG Gold Status and Hilton HHonors Gold Status. Without even stepping foot into a hotel room, you receive the perks of those road warriors that spend countless nights away from home.
Step 2: Apply for credit cards. There are many lucrative credit card offers out there, and throughout the year new ones come and go. Many have enticing bonuses that make keeping the card in your wallet very worthwhile. For others, every day spending is key, and it’s the go to card for certain purchases. Whatever the case, figure out the best credit cards for you and make as many transactions as possible on them, while still being economically savvy. The more you spend, the more you earn…though there are some ways to creatively spend without every actually “spending” a dime. 🙂
Step 3: Utilize those perks. Did you know most hotels in the American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts program come with a $100 USD food and beverage credit? If you find a hotel there with a rate around $100, you’re essentially getting a free night in return. Did you know mileage tickets have certain routing rules that allow you to have stop-overs, depart from different cities, and other add-ons? Figure out what they are and utilize them to the max. Many credit cards come with insurance, lounge access and other perks that you may not be aware of.
Step 4: Figure out the rules. Many elite programs require certain thresholds to be met to continue status the next year. Many mileage tickets have routing rules and restrictions. Many hotel stays also have the same. Certain award program miles can be transferred to other programs, while some cannot. Learn the rules, and stick to them. Some of these rules can certainly work to your benefit, so the more you know the better. When you don’t know them, don’t be afraid to ask for help! It sounds complicated, but the more you learn about the process, the easier it will become.
Finally, while not necessarily a concrete step, always be willing to learn and keep learning.
Here’s my recommend to-do list for the newbies out there (I only recommend these because this is exactly how I learned):
- Attend a Frequent Traveler University (held at various times throughout the year, in varrying locations)
- Attend the Chicago Seminars (held each October in Chicago, just outside O’Hare Airport) and the First2Board Sessions, each providing a unique spin on traveling, with a different audience.
- Apply for credit cards with big perks or sign-up bonuses. This is the easiest and fastest way to accumulate miles.
- Create an account on FlyerTalk.com and start looking through the various discussions and posts. There’s a lot of engaging forums here, including ones on fare deals, great hotel rates and more.
- Create an account on MilePoint.com and start looking through the various discussions and posts. MilePoint is where frequent flyers meet. Join in on the conversations and get your feet wet.
- Follow the blogs at BoardingArea.com and Prior2Boarding.com. You’ll get a wide array of tips, tricks and suggestions from 80+ bloggers writing about the travel industry.
- Pick an airline and hotel you want to earn elite status on and go for it. If you don’t fly enough, it may be worth it anyways.
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